Have you ever met a Black Lab you didn’t like; or any Labrador for that matter? Labradors are the most popular breed of dog in America and around the world. Black Labs combine intelligence, gentleness and eagerness to please in a perfect balance, making the Black Lab an ideal dog for active people. But Black Labs were not family dogs originally.
The modern Black Labs’ ancestors originated on the island of Newfoundland in Canada. The founding breed was the St. John’s Water Dog, a breed that emerged through ad-hoc breedings by early settlers of the island in the 16th century. Local fishermen originally used the St. John’s Water Dog to assist in carrying ropes between boats, towing dories, and helping to retrieve fishnets in the water. The Labrador’s loyalty and hard working behavior were valuable assets for fishermen.
Black Labs later became popular in England where they functioned in a variety of hunting situations, accompanying hunters in the open field and retrieving game. For this reason they were called Labrador Retrieivers and were considered working dogs. To this day, Black Labs have a natural aptitude as a hunter. They love to swim and with their webbed feet and water-repellent coat they are well equipped for the water. But if a daily swim is not possible for your Black Lab, any exercise adventure will make him happy; from running with you to playing “fetch”.
However, because of their high activity level and work ethic, Black Labs also have an insatiable appetite. Black Labs have inherited the need to eat a lot of just about anything. Maverick ate my daughter’s upper retainer shortly after she got it. One evening we cooked a whole chicken for dinner. Since we had to leave for my daughter’s choir concert before the chicken was cool, we put the cast iron cooking dish in the kitchen sink with the lid on it, thinking Maverick would not be able to get it. Wrong! We came home to find the lid pushed off the cooking dish and a grease spot on the floor! Because of this desire to eat, it is very important to do your best to make sure your Black Lab doesn’t get into anything harmful. We put all chicken and turkey bones, shrimp tails and any other food remains that can be harmful in the freezer instead of the compostables. Maverick is very good at get the “good stuff”.
Black Labs have a passion for putting things in their mouths and carrying them around. Originally, what they carried was a dead duck, but most Black Labs don’t go hunting so they are content with whatever they can find. I often find my daughter’s stuffed animals around the house. So be sure your Black Lab has plenty of toys, everything from a soft squeaky toy to a bone to chew on for hours. Maverick loves Bully Sticks and his Kong.
Black Labs love to work with people. They respond to food and play rewards with enthusiasm, which makes them fun and easy to train. They are often trained as guide dogs and rescue dogs. Black Labs don’t become emotionally mature until about age 3, so be prepared for an active dog for a few years! Generally, Black Labs are not prone to barking at strangers and do not create a lot of noise because they have been bred to be stealthy hunting dogs. They will alert you, however, when something is truely wrong, even if it’s just a skunk!
Black Labs are among the smartest dogs in the world and continue to learn throughout their lives. With Black Labs, you can teach an old dog new tricks.